On August 10, CLP’s Evelyn Wright made a presentation to a packed pavilion at Robert Post Memorial Park in the Town of Ulster. Alongside Ulster County Executive Mike Hein and Scenic Hudson’s Hayley Carlock, she spoke to an audience of 150 about the dangers to the region posed by the proposed Glidepath Lincoln Park Grid Support Center gas power plant.
After an impassioned introduction by Mike Hein, who promised to “fight like hell” against the fossil fuel project, Evelyn described the complex of state regulations that have made our region a target for small peaker plants like this one. We don't need additional peak capacity here. Peak loads on Central Hudson’s local distribution circuits are stagnant or falling. It is needed downstate, however, and the New Capacity Zone created by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in 2014 means that plants built in our region can be paid for providing backup capacity as if they were located downstate where the capacity is needed. Over the last year, capacity payments in the Mid-Hudson transmission zone were about $70 per kilowatt, versus less than $20 further upstate. This means the Glidepath plant could earn $1.4 million per year just for existing, before even being turned on.
At the same time, the hurdles to getting the necessary state air permits are lower here than they would be in downstate areas that are in “nonattainment” of federal air standards. Combine that with much lower land prices up here than downstate, and our region has a bullseye on it for those, like Glidepath, who want to get into the New York capacity market. The Lincoln Park plant, if built, could be just the first of many across the region to take advantage of this perverse combination of regulations.
Evelyn also described a number of cleaner alternatives to the proposed project, and provided an update on battery storage in New York state. Currently battery-only projects are not able to qualify to receive the capacity payments the Lincoln Park project plans to rely on, but the state grid operator NYISO is actively working on new market rules for battery-only projects that will be in place by the end of 2019. Between those changes and the governor’s 1500 MW storage goal, for which NYSERDA and the PSC are now designing incentive programs and utility requirements, the storage landscape in New York is set to dramatically change in the coming year, making a cleaner alternative to the proposed project economically viable. While there’s no evidence so far that Glidepath is actively evaluating these alternatives, CLP and other organizations continue to urge Glidepath to come up with a project design that is more fitting with our regional character and clean energy leadership.
Hayley Carlock then described the need for communities all over the region to examine their zoning so they can be prepared should a gas-fired peaker plant be proposed in their town. She explained that while power plants smaller than 25 MW in size are regulated by local land use law, rather than at the state level, most communities do not have specific zoning in place for power plants. And, like the Town of Ulster, they often have language permitting “utility” structures, which Glidepath and other power plant companies may try to use to suggest that their plants are permitted uses, although this usage is usually intended to apply to distribution lines and other essential public infrastructure, not privately-owned power plants. She suggested that communities place a moratorium on fossil-fuel burning power plants while they develop zoning that specifically addresses power plants.
KingstonCitizens.org has put together a toolkit for communities including videos of the August 10 presentations and guidelines for communities to consider as they update their zoning.